Advisory Board Wants Improved Well Testing

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In response to concerns about the presence of explosives in groundwater surrounding the Badger Army Ammunition Plant, members of the local Restoration Advisory Board are urging the Army to improve test methods for nearby residential wells.   The laboratory methods currently used by the Army do not test for all of the potential degradation products of dinitrotoluene (DNT).

At the April 9 public meeting held at Badger, representatives of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Sauk County, Villages of Merrimac and Prairie du Sac, Merrimac and Prairie du Sac townships, and surrounding rural neighborhoods voted in favor of a resolution which urges the Army to “immediately add targeted analysis for all degradation products of DNT for all groundwater and drinking water samples.”

“It is important for people to know what is in their drinking water,” said Mary Jane Koch, a resident who lives in an area where low levels of DNT have been detected in groundwater.  “Many of us living near Badger all these years had no idea we should be concerned about well contamination.  Testing of nearby wells for these degradation products and other chemicals is an important step for the DNR and Army to take.” 

“We have been asking for improved test methods for more than two years,” said Laura Olah, a resident of rural Merrimac and director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB). “Women of child-bearing age are especially vulnerable because exposure to these toxins can be devastating to prenatal health and development.”

In response to a petition from CSWAB, the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services recently published Health Advisory Levels for drinking water for several of these compounds.   

“Breakdown products of DNT were found in groundwater at Badger Army Ammunition Plant, including several forms of nitrotoluene,” said Henry Nehls-Lowe, an epidemiologist with the Division of Public Health.  “Ortho and para nitrotoluene appear to cause cancer in laboratory animals, and their drinking water advisories of 0.15 and 2.0 parts-per-billion were set to be protective of public health.”

Voting in support of the resolution were Earl Cramer (representing the Village of Prairie du Sac), Michele Hopp (Village of Merrimac), Randy Poelma (Ho-Chunk Nation), Judy Ashford (Sauk County), Ron Lins (Town of Prairie du Sac), Paul Herr (Town of Merrimac), and rural neighbors of the plant including Charlie Wilhelm, Mary Jane Koch, Mary Carol Solum, Lance Delaney, Ken Lins, Bill Stehling, and Dick Anderson. 

The board will be sending copies of the resolution to Army officials, Congressional Representatives, the Office of the Governor, the Secretary of the WNDR, and others.

April 9, 2008 Badger RAB Resolution (.pdf file)

Bob Egan (USEPA), Eileen Pierce (WDNR), Hank Kuehling (WDNR), and Henry Nehls-Lowe (Wisconsin Division of Public Health) listen to community concerns about the presence of explosives in groundwater in rural neighborhoods near Badger Army Ammunition Plant. (L to R)Members of the Badger Restoration Advisory Board – a community-based board that includes representatives of local government and residents – listen to a presentation on groundwater conditions at the April 9 public meeting at Badger Army Ammunition Plant.

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